About Fessenden Elementary School

  • The Beginning of Fessenden                                                           



    School Accountability Reports

    Location of Fessenden Elementary

    4200 NW 89th Place, Ocala, Florida 34482, USA


    Fessenden Elementary is located off CR-25A, just before the Ocala Speedway. From Interstate 75, exit at FL-326 (exit 358) and head east. Turn left at CR-25A (Gainesville Road). Fessenden's marquee will be visible on the left.

    School History and Profile

    A Brief History of Fessenden Elementary School

    Fessenden Elementary School has an amazing history. In 1868 on the very same grounds it currently stands, local freed African American families established a school during the Reconstruction era after the Civil War. The Union School—as it was then called—continued to grow, reflecting the need for black student education in the racially segregated Deep South. A wealthy Boston man named Ferdinand Fessenden visited the school in 1889. Mr. Fessenden recognized the crucial role that the school could play as Reconstruction ended. He helped to build the school’s first two-story building, and found educational support for its students.

    Ferdinand Fessenden died, was buried on school grounds in 1899, and the school changed its name to Fessenden Academy and Industrial School in his honor. A year prior to Fessenden’s death, the school promoted Joseph L. Wiley to principal. Mr. Wiley was a Fisk University graduate and became a practicing lawyer before answering the call to “do more good as a Christian teacher”.

    Mr. Wiley brought Fessenden Academy into regional prominence. He and his wife Josephine, who also worked there as a teacher, increased the teaching staff and increased the student body to over 200 students. By 1903 Fessenden was drawing students from long distances to the only school in the area to offer high school classes for black pupils. After building men’s and women’s dormitories to accommodate them, Wiley won a $6,500 grant from the wealthy industrialist Andrew Carnegie to build a library, a dining hall and more classrooms—all from designs by a black architect and built by the hands of black laborers!

    By 1910, Fessenden Academy stood on over 200 acres with more than 300 students and a successful teaching program. But sadly, Joseph L. Wiley disappeared one day in 1915 after visiting downtown Ocala.

    After some decline during the depression and war years, Marion County schools purchased the school in 1953 and re-opened it as Fessenden High School. It very quickly regained its reputation as a strong school for southern black education and for producing excellent African American professionals. Today, along the school’s sturdy wood-floored hallways, students can see pictures of its many graduating classes from the 1960s. The school began serving its community as Fessenden Elementary School after 1971, and still enjoys the enthusiastic support of its many generations of adoring alumni.

    Ms. Carrie Moore of the Fessenden High School graduating class of 1963 volunteers with the PTO. She fondly remembers Fessenden as a “school that everybody in her family” attended. Its teachers, she said, “were people from the community” who enriched the student body with a sense of family.

    Mrs. Alice (Nichols) Burton of the class of 1968 also serves the school as a volunteer and was a part of the largest graduating class from Fessenden High School. “The teachers, when we came up, made sure that the students knew how much they really cared for them!”

    The Fessenden school grounds were named a Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places by the United States Department of the Interior in 1994.


    Richardson, Joe M. “Joseph L. Wiley: A Black Florida Educator,” Florida Historical Quarterly 71, no. 4 (1992) Article 5, accessed November 30, 2023, https://stars.library.ucf.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=4004&context=fhq

    Leitner, Annabelle. “Alumni work to preserve legacy of historic school.” Ocala StarBanner, July 18, 2016. https://www.ocala.com/story/news/local/2016/07/18/alumni-work-to-preserve-legacy-of-fessenden-school/27472592007/


    Odom, Jennifer. “Fessenden Elementary School grads flock to Ocala for reunion.” Ocala StarBanner, July 28, 2011. https://www.ocala.com/story/news/local/2011/07/29/fessenden-elementary-school-grads-flock-to-ocala-for-reunion/31446262007/


    Moore, Carrie. 2023. Interview by Gregory Wilson. Fessenden Elementary, Ocala, Florida. November 30.


    Burton, Alice. 2023. Interview by Gregory Wilson. Fessenden Elementary, Ocala, Florida. November 30.


    Callahan, Joe. “Fessenden forever: Historic Fessenden school celebrates 150th anniversary.” Ocala StarBanner, October 19, 2018. https://www.ocala.com/story/news/education/2018/10/19/historic-fessenden-school-celebrates-150th-anniversary/9468241007/


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    Fessenden Big 3 

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    School Colors and Mascot

         Mascot: TigerLogo

    •      School Colors: White, Gold, and Garnet